Radical academicism or sociological monologue : who are sociologists talking with ?
Since the 1990s, a sociological approach known as « radical academicism » as developed, with considerable success, in France. Based on identifying the sociologist as a kind of « objectivity » source external to society (society being incarnated by the institution), radical academicism leads to a sort of elitism : only an elite of « savants » this thinking goes, can accede to the clear thinking offered by theory and universal values. The sociologist is understood not to be subject to social determinism of the sort he can see at work in others’ lives. He is therefore led to engage in a monologue and establish his « self » as the point where science and politics connect. This in turn means he is in a position to « how » the dominated the real meaning of their actions. In addition to the benefits this position provides, it joins up with the social experience of « intellos précaire » [intellectuals in a precarious socio-economic situation], thus enabling that group to put their « misère » on a par with the « suffering » of the most deprived persons or groups in society and thereby to universalize their own interests. Radical academicism is sharply hostile to democracy, and there is a strong correspondance between this approach and the mixture of self-pity and critical distance that characterizes middle-class ideology. In political terms, radical academicism clearly expresses the grip that the middle classes have on the world of labor demands and other social demands and their ability to weaken the defenses of the classes populaires.